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How Long Do Condoms Last? 23 Tips & Mistakes That Make Them Expire Fast!

Do condoms expire? Can you use an expired condom? Here are all the answers to how long condoms last, their shelf life, and the common mistakes we make. 

how long do condoms last

Condoms are considered an important commodity for any dating adult. Not only do they prevent unwanted pregnancies, but they also serve to protect people from STDs. Additionally, their affordability and accessibility make them a good choice for protection. But how long do condoms last, irrespective of whether it’s in your wallet or your drawer?

Before we get into how long condoms last, let’s just start out with some fun historical facts about condoms in general.

Fun historical facts about condoms

Have you ever wondered about the brilliant, magical condom? Here are some things you probably never knew about it.

1. Condoms used to be reusable

As early as the 1600s, people used animal-based condoms. But they were very expensive. If you were a prostitute, it could cost you up to three months’ pay. Because of that, they got reused a lot. And yes, that’s gross, but it’s true.

It wasn’t until around 1844 that they began to mass-produce rubber condoms. This made them more affordable for everyone.

2. Condoms used to only be available through prescription

A long time ago, you needed a doctor to write you a prescription in order to get condoms. That’s why some people were embarrassed to buy them.

Plus, it was almost impossible for a woman to buy them. But in the 1920s, around Prohibition time, condoms became available through vending machines. 

3. Condoms used to only cover the tip of the penis

Early condoms were made from animal parts, like intestines. In pre-15th century China, little pieces of oiled silk were put over the end of the penis. And in Japan, men used condom caps made out of tortoise shells just for the tip!

[Read: History of condoms – how to be a condom know-it-all in 5 minutes]

Why do condoms have expiration dates?

Condoms don’t last forever, and they do, indeed expire. Using one after it expires can greatly reduce its effectiveness.

If you use it after it expired, then they are drier and weaker, so they are more likely to break during sex. That puts you and your partner at risk of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

If the condom hasn’t expired, they are about 98% effective if they are used perfectly every time you have sex. And because people can be accidentally careless, the actual effectiveness rate is around 85%.

But if a condom is expired, then that percentage continues to go down. Certain factors can have an impact on why and how quickly they expire. Here they are. [Read: Buying condoms – The newbie’s complete guide to using condoms]

1. How they are stored

If you have a condom in your pocket, purse, wallet, or in your car, the wear and tear on it can affect its strength.

For that reason, you should keep them stored in a safe place. You would think the bathroom would be a good spot, but actually, it’s not. That’s because you need to keep them away from heat and humidity as they can degrade the materials of the condom wrapper and the condom intself. And of course, any sharp objects.

2. What they are made of

The type of material that a condom is made of can also influence how quickly it expires too.

Some are made of natural materials like lambskin, and they break down faster than synthetic materials like latex and polyurethane condoms. [Read: Interesting facts about condoms you have no idea about]

3. Chemical additives

If a condom has chemical additives in it like spermicide, that can shorten the condom’s shelf life by several years. Spermicide takes up to two years off the life span if it’s a latex or polyurethane one.

As for the condoms with lube or added flavoring, it’s more unclear whether that affects how long condoms last. So, you should err on the side of caution. If you notice any signs of wear and tear, feels brittle, or if it smells bad, then throw it in the garbage and get a new one.

How long do condoms last?

Condoms have come a long way from the ancient fish bladders into their modern-day variety that provides protection, pleasure, or simply eye candy.

But despite what your favorite condom manufacturer tells you about their product’s durability, condoms do expire.

Like any commodity, the effectiveness of the condoms, as well as their quality, degenerates over time. Improper storage and mishandling further decrease their efficiency. Aside from knowing how to put it on, it is important to check if the condom you use is still safe to put on. [Read: 10 birth control options and what they can do for you]

1. How long do condoms last? 

The majority of condoms are made of latex which is a rubber-like material. On average, commercial latex condoms have a shelf life of four to five years from their manufacturing date. That is if the condom is stored properly.

Condoms, even stored properly, degenerate over time. They become brittle after their date of expiration. It is not advisable to use it then. How long a condom will last is also contingent on proper storage.

2. How long do opened condoms last? 

Upon opening, the best quality commercially-produced latex condom is still usable for eight to ten hours after opening depending on temperature.

Opened condoms dry up and lose their elasticity making them brittle when used sometime after opening. [Read: 15 things they don’t teach you in sex ed]

Do certain types of condoms last longer than others? 

There are different condom types each designed with additive material for a specific purpose. The shelf life of a condom depends on each of those materials which makes certain condoms last longer than others. By far, latex condoms have the longest shelf life among other types.

1. Condoms with spermicides

Last two to five years. Its spermicidal content doesn’t last long, shortening its shelf life compared to regular latex condoms.

2. Polyurethane condoms

Polyurethane condoms have the longest shelf life, for about five years. It is a material used as a latex substitute and caters to those allergic to latex.

Despite a safe alternative, polyurethane condoms are physically less durable and more susceptible to heat damage compared to latex.

3. Other non-latex condoms

Aside from latex and polyurethane, there are also polyisoprene condoms which have shorter shelf life, and then there are other exotic, natural condoms made up of organic material such as the lambskin or sheepskin.

These types sacrifice shelf life for a unique sensation during use, that’s why their lifespan is shorter than the other types of artificial rubber condoms. They usually last one year from its manufacturing date. It’s also important to note that lambskin condoms don’t protect against STIs due to the natural pores in them. [Read: The different types of condoms and how each of them can improve your sex life]

Does a condom’s thickness prolong its shelf life? 

No. The thickness does not dictate whether a condom will last longer in storage or not. It only matters when it’s subjected to action. Thick condoms are more resistant to tears and bursts but are still vulnerable to heat damage and degeneration with time. [Read: The newbie’s complete guide to buying and using condoms]

What are the usual mistakes people do with keeping condoms that affect their effectiveness? 

Be sure to take good care of your condoms! Avoid these mistakes if you want your condoms to last longer, and stay safer as well.

1. Store them haphazardly

Ideally, the proper storage of condoms is that they should be stored in a cool, dry place in order to extend their shelf life.

Random placement near sources of heat such as appliances or direct sunlight dries up the moisture inside the pack and makes your condoms brittle.

2. Placing it inside your wallet

Placing it inside the wallet initially seems smart as it allows you to carry those condoms anywhere.

In reality, placing it in an area where it is subjected to friction, pressure, and constant changes in temperature causes damage to the condom’s structure.

3. Leaving it outside the box

The foil pack may not be as durable as you think.

Even if outside your wallet but placed in areas where scratched and punctured by other objects in your bag such as keys, pens, and other sharp items may cause damage that’s hard to identify by the time you use it. Simply said, there’s a reason why it comes in a box.

4. Mishandling

The last risk of damage usually comes from the moment of use. Your condom may have survived by being stored properly, but if used improperly and mishandled, it won’t be of much use to you in the end.

Mishandling comes from using the wrong lubricant, two layers of condoms, and wearing them improperly. [Read: Unprotected sex and the dangers most people don’t think about]

How should you store condoms to prolong their shelf life? 

The best way to prolong a condom’s shelf life is to emulate the conditions it is kept in the store. Instead of wondering how long do condoms last, focus on safe storage, and store it like you would a bottle of medication.

1. Store it in a cool, dry place

Don’t store it in your wallet or dump it in the pocket in your bag. Keep it in its box and store it inside your medicine cabinet, or inside the drawer of your nightstand. It’s important to keep your condoms stored in a dry place away from heat.

2. Keep it away from sharp objects

Sharp objects puncture the wrapper making it dry and brittle or the condom itself, making it useless. Keep your condoms away from pointy things.

3. Use condoms near their expiration first before the fresh ones

This practice prevents you from storing condoms until their actual expiration dates.

4. Open it properly

Not with your teeth please. [Read: How to have safe sex in every single way possible]

How can I tell if a condom is still fit to use? 

So, you see a random pack of condoms lying around. You wonder if it’s still safe to use. What do you do then?

1. Check the expiration date on the box 

Every box of condoms has an expiration date, so you know how long they last. If your condom is fortunately found inside its box, you still check if it’s within its shelf life. If it isn’t, the only thing to do is to throw it away. Maybe use it as a live sample for sex education demonstrations.

2. Check the place it is found

Is the condom in a cool and dry place? Or did you happen to find it beneath your car seat or wedged between the bed frame and mattress? If the place you found is not a conducive area to store condoms, forget about using them.

3. If the condom is unboxed, check the wrapper

Each individual condom wrapper should have an expiry date. Does it have tears, holes, or wrinkles? If you found it in the aforementioned states, think twice about using it and simply chuck it into the bin.

4. Finally, check the condom itself

You may still go through a phase where you’d want to save that lonely pack you casually found somewhere. But if you want to be safe, at least check if it is still flexible and lubricated.

A dry and stiff condom is a sign that it’s way past its usable state. It must not be used for your own safety. [Read: Why men hate wearing condoms and why you need one]

Is it safe to use a condom after it expired? 

If your condom has expired but you stored it in a cool, dry place, they could still be relatively safe to use. But if you have an unexpired condom to use instead, then you should always use that. If you use an expired condom that has tiny tears or holes, then it definitely won’t be effective to keep bodily fluids out. That means that you have a higher risk for an unwanted pregnancy AND an STD.

One the other hand, you should never use expired condoms that contain spermicide because the chemicals in them could cause skin irritation and burning sensation. As much as possible, using expired condoms should be the last thing that crosses your mind.

Is using an expired condom better than not using one at all?

If the only thing you have to use during sex is an expired condom, then it is better than not using one at all. Hopefully, it’s not in too bad of a condition. And if that’s true, then it will still offer some protection against diseases and unwanted pregnancy. [Read: Newsflash – women hate condoms just as much as men do]

When you have sex without a condom, you have absolutely no protection at all. And unless your partner and you use another form of birth control, you’re not very protected at all.

Regardless, it’s best to keep your eye on the condom box and throw them away after they have expired. Go out and get some new condoms instead. Doing this gives you the best possible protection you can have.

Bottom line

Even though an expired condom is better than not using one at all, only a condom that has been stored properly hasn’t expired and is used perfectly offers 98% protection against STDs and unwanted pregnancy.

For this reason, it’s always a good idea to keep some emergency contraception with you at all times. You should use this emergency contraception as your primary method of birth control, but it will help you have peace of mind if you happen to use an expired condom or if it breaks during sex.

[Read: How to become a condom know-it-all in five minutes]

So how long do condoms last? Any condom may boast extra durability, but nothing lasts forever. Over time, condoms lose their durability, and ultimately, their effectiveness in providing protection.

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The editorial team of LovePanky comprises relationship experts and real-life experts that share their experiences and life lessons. If you want the best love ad...